The historic temples, serene beaches, and peaceful countryside are what tourists find most enigmatic. Even the overly populated markets in the country provide travelers with an unforgettable and exciting experience. The sceneries and warmth of the people provide visitors a taste of the local culture and a perception of Asians in general.
Vietnam is located in the Southeast Asia, bordering the Gulfs of Thailand and Tonkin, and South China Sea. It is alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia, and very near Thailand so tourists can easily find trips to neighboring countries after enjoying their tour of Vietnam. At present, Vietnam’s population has grown to almost 85 million in 2008 (Population Council).
Most people associate Vietnam with wars possibly due to films that feature the Vietnam War. However, Vietnam is more than what we see in films. Contrary to the what others believe regarding the Viet Kong, Vietnamese are peace-loving and warm-hearted people. They are called Vietnamese, which is similar to the official language.
There are around 50 tribes which include the Kinh (also known as Viet) who make up the majority of the population, the Tay, Thai, Muong, Khome, Hoa, Nun, Hmong, and others. Aside from the Vietnamese language, English is becoming a popular language especially among the younger people. Some can speak French, Chinese, and Kmer while dialects among the natives in the mountain areas include Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian.
When planning to visit Vietnam, most visitors need to apply for a tourist visa in advance. Vietnamese visa is inexpensive at the rate of USD 40-80 when applying directly to the Embassy. Another way to apply for visa is upon arrival in Hanoi, but this requires a pre-arranged application with the Hanoi Immigration Department. To do away from the hassles, it is recommended to obtain visa a week or two before the trip.
Throughout the country the average temperature is between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius. During summer, the average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. Rainy season starts from May and it ends in October. At its peak, some lowlands are affected by flood, so it is best to visit either in summer or autumn.
If one wants to witness the rich culture of the Vietnamese, the best time is during the traditional Vietnamese Tet (Lunar New Year). Tet is a week long festival and is the most important festival of the year usually every last week or January or early February.
As expected, prices during this time are raised radically, and most of the locals are on holiday so business is typically paralyzed, with some hotels, transportation companies and restaurants closed down. Therefore, those who prefer to travel around this period should have a well-organized trip with a tourist company. Otherwise, it will be difficult to go around without a good companion.
When making a short visit to Vietnam, visitors have at least three choices. For those who love the city, the best place to go is Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon). There, one will experience Asian nightlife at its best. Those who are after relaxation and peace must see Hanoi and Halong Bay; while those who are after adventure and exploring nature should try Sapa and Mekong Delta River.